North Korea says to ignore Japan until it scraps military drills, other measures

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea will continue to ignore Japan unless Tokyo halts hostilities against its neighbor, such as large-scale military drills and efforts to boost military readiness, the isolated nation’s state media said on Monday.

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Japan has been eyeing prospects for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes to tackle the issue of Japanese citizens abducted decades ago by the North.

Despite Kim’s summits with the leaders of China, South Korea and the United States in a flurry of diplomatic activity over the past year, no date has been set for one with Japan.

“If Japan does not correct its ambitions regarding peace and security, it should realize the end result where Japan is passed over will be inevitable,” North Korea’s state news agency said.

“Japan should stop its large-scale military drills and the boosting of its military capacity aimed at attacking (Korea), scrap its hostile policy against us, break with the past and show its sincerity towards peace,” it said in a commentary.

In 2002, North Korea admitted that it kidnapped 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s, and five returned home.

Abe, grappling with domestic scandals, has vowed not to rest until the others return as well, an issue he pressed U.S. President Donald Trump to raise at his June 12 summit in Singapore with Kim.

The Korean Central News Agency made no mention of the abductees in its commentary, but scolded Abe’s government for not having scrapped an evacuation drill for Japanese sooner.

Japan started civilian evacuation drills last year as North Korea test-fired numerous missiles near, and over, some Japanese islands. Last week, Tokyo said it would suspend the drills for the time being after the Singapore summit.

Abe has called the summit a first step towards denuclearisation, while his officials have remained firm that Japan and the United States need to maintain guard against North Korea until it makes concrete efforts towards that.

Reporting by Christine Kim; Editing by Clarence Fernandez